Wednesday, July 11, 2012
House of Lords reform: Coalition partners must ‘stick to the deal’, says Deputy PM Nick Clegg, but what exactly is the blueprint for The Lords?
For several years, stretching into decades there has been talk of House of Lords Reform.
When the Blair era was running the talk translated into limited action and then it petered out.
The big question is what is The House of Lords for?
In my opinion, The Lords serves a real serious purpose to act as a brake on government bringing forward bad legislation.
If we accept this, then the next question is how can we make it better to be in tune with democracy?
Tradition is important in my opinion but as well as tradition, no institution should be above reform, not in a democracy.
The people who sit in The Lords should be all elected and not only that; they should be on the same terms and conditions as MPs.
In order to get into the Lords you cannot get in unless you are made up by the Queen.
This is undemocratic.
One of the nuggets thrown to Nick Clegg when he signed up with the Tories to form the government was that House of Lords reform was on the table.
It was a key Lib Dem priority for them, but I am still waiting to see a convincing case put by anyone above the reform soundbyte.
Reform is about change but change for change sake benefits no one.
David Cameron has a problem, well he has many problems in the pipeline, there is rebellion on the backbenches; up to 100 Tory MPs are up in arms. And if we know anything about rebellion it grows and grows.
Nick Clegg says it is:
“Important to stick to the deal”, but he isn’t in Cameron’s shoes.
Although The House of Lords Reform Bill cleared its first hurdle in the Commons with Labour support last night, 91 Conservative MPs defied the leadership.
To avoid it all turning really nasty Cameron ditched a motion which would have limited detailed scrutiny of the reforms to 10 days, leaving open the prospect of opponents wrecking the legislation by dragging out debate until time runs out.
For the public, the reforms haven’t been sold to the public; it is seen as an internal Westminster village matter.
But really it is more than that, it is about an important safeguard in government, the right of people being able to put country before party and speak out when something is clearly wrong and then not wonder if by making a principled stand they will find themselves turfed out at the next election.
Some of the greatest parliamentarians are people who went against the grain and said a few words.
No, this is wrong!
There is a case for reform of the House of Lords but it should be a clear vision, the decades of piecemeal reform haven’t been helpful, perhaps it is time for a Royal Commission.
If a job is worth doing, its worth doing properly.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University